Stem cell tourism
Unproved treatments are putting patients at risk
- By: Mark Pownall
“Medical tourism” for unproved uses of stem cell therapy poses potential risks to patients. They may spend tens of thousands of pounds in the hope of an effective treatment for chronic degenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and some forms of retinal disease, say a group of UK experts. They warn that the technology is being widely and inappropriately used in therapeutic areas where there is little or no evidence of benefit and where the chances of success are many years or even decades away.
It is an industry with hundreds of clinics scattered around the world. Desperate patients will often travel to countries such as China or Korea in the hope that stem cell therapy will help in conditions where conventional medicine is at best only partially effective.
Chris Mason, professor of regenerative medicine at University College London, makes a comparison with monocloncal antibodies: “They were